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Whats wrong with thunderbolt? promise and sonnet vs current mini sas/pcie arrays

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Jake Zalutsky
Whats wrong with thunderbolt? promise and sonnet vs current mini sas/pcie arrays
on Feb 21, 2012 at 9:59:24 pm

I have heard a number of people say the promise thunderbolt product is not up to par and I am wondering if someone could explain the possible problems I may encounter with it (actually havent heard anything about the sonnet....its not even out yet so I guess that is why)

I am in the market now for a caldigit element or one, but the speed and price of the promise and sonnet boxes is of course very alluring. Reliability is of course key for me I have a raid array currently that we built ourselves with highpoint and proavio components that has been problematic from the first day and I never want to deal with something like it again. With that said the thunderbolt products look very interesting at their price point.... I feel like I am missing something and I have done quite a bit of research with out finding alot of help on the subject. So with out turning this into a big thing can someone outline the problems with thunderbolt and or the promise/sonnet products?


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Jon Schilling
Re: Whats wrong with thunderbolt? promise and sonnet vs current mini sas/pcie arrays
on Feb 21, 2012 at 11:13:51 pm

Jake,

I'll reserve my comments on Thunderbolt. I'm sure those those who've actually purchased the product(s) will address those issues.

1st off, I'm sorry that you had an issue to begin with.
We (ProAvio) don't recommend Highpoint as their support is notoriously... inadequate.

Did you attempt to contact Highpoint when you ran into problems?
Did you contact ProAvio support if Highpoint couldn't help?



Jonathan Schilling
Vertical Sales Manager
ProAvio
12221 Florence Ave.
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Dir: 562-777-3498
Main: 562-777-3488 X106
Fax: 562-777-3499
Email: jon@proavio.com








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Jake Zalutsky
Re: Whats wrong with thunderbolt? promise and sonnet vs current mini sas/pcie arrays
on Feb 22, 2012 at 12:07:41 am

I emailed you....felt that would be a more appropriate place for this conversation.


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Steve Modica
Re: Whats wrong with thunderbolt? promise and sonnet vs current mini sas/pcie arrays
on Feb 22, 2012 at 11:21:29 am

The only problem I've seen with thunderbolt so far is that it's 4 lanes rather than 8. So an 8X 10Gb card can't quite go line rate. it's still very fast (700MB/sec), but it could be 1GB/sec with a line rate PCIE bus.
I'm sure with Tbolt gen3 it'll get there.

As for other vendors, one major challenge will be hot plug and unplug.

Steve Modica
CTO, Small Tree Communications


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Bob Zelin
Re: Whats wrong with thunderbolt? promise and sonnet vs current mini sas/pcie arrays
on Feb 22, 2012 at 1:07:28 pm

and this is the problem with the "fantasy" Magma 3 slot expansion chassis that claims two x8 lane slots and one x4 lane slot. When you put your x8 cards into this chassis, and the MacBook Pro or MacMini thunderbolt connection host computer can't provide this to the expansion chassis - exactly how is this supposed to work as advertised.

It's not. Well, not until Gen2 thunderbolt comes out. Many people on these forums want the current thunderbolt to be a hi end professional solution. It is clear to me that current generation thunderbolt is specifically designed for students, parents, and grandma, who can go out to the Apple store in the shopping mall, buy a new Thunderbolt monitor and cheap drive array, plug it in, and "Voila", everything just works without configuration. That's the point of what Apple has currently done. Apple is not concerned with currently addressing our hi end professional needs with Thunderbolt. The point is to be easy to plug in and use - not get world class performance.

As Steve says, we may see than in Gen3.

Bob Zelin



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Andrew Richards
Re: Whats wrong with thunderbolt? promise and sonnet vs current mini sas/pcie arrays
on Feb 23, 2012 at 5:03:38 pm

[Bob Zelin] "It is clear to me that current generation thunderbolt is specifically designed for students, parents, and grandma, who can go out to the Apple store in the shopping mall, buy a new Thunderbolt monitor and cheap drive array, plug it in, and "Voila", everything just works without configuration. That's the point of what Apple has currently done. Apple is not concerned with currently addressing our hi end professional needs with Thunderbolt. The point is to be easy to plug in and use - not get world class performance. "

Hold on a sec. Grandma? What grandma, parent, or student is buying $1,500 - $2,000 storage arrays??

We went from having nothing better than FW800 or ExpressCard on laptops to having something with a shade more bandwidth than a PCIe 2.0 4 lane slot, and this is somehow a consumery joke of a bus? Yes, Thunderbolt is slower compared to the I/O on a Mac Pro or other full-size workstation or server, but it blows out of the water all previously available busses on portables and iMacs, including ExpressCard.

Also, let's stop laying this all at Apple's feet. Thunderbolt is Intel's tech. Apple undoubtedly played a significant role in it's development and they are clearly the early adopter in the market, but claiming "Apple is not concerned with currently addressing our hi end professional needs" based on Thunderbolt being presently slower than 8 lane and 16 lane PCIe slots is really stretching the "Apple hates pros" meme.

With Thunderbolt, we can now have 4Gb Fibre Channel on a Mac mini. We can have the functional equivalent of a Kona LHi on a MacBook Air. I get that your whole world revolves around 10Gb Ethernet, but that doesn't make Thunderbolt a useless fad. On the contrary, even at Gen1 it is a huge step forward in I/O for anything other than towers and rack-mount servers.

If we never get a new Mac Pro when Intel finally ships the E5 Xeons, or if that next Mac Pro has been gutted and left with nothing but Thunderbolt ports, then we can talk about Apple's disdain for the pros.

Best,
Andy


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Frank Gothmann
Re: Whats wrong with thunderbolt? promise and sonnet vs current mini sas/pcie arrays
on Feb 23, 2012 at 5:41:38 pm

I agree that it's a welcome, speedy option for smaller devices and portables. The main problem I have at this stage is that there is little information out there as to compatibility, chaining order and how devices actually influence each other and eat bandwith. So, yeah, I'd also be a bit cautious. There is not enough hardware and real world usage reports out there at the moment - and there might be a reason for it.
Data flow is never constant if you have multiple devices connected and/or only one controller in the machine. Your footage may come from one but also from two raid arrays or a SAN. How many streams, how many audio channels, same goes for video io (single link or dual link sdi, how many audio channels), how many displays, Raid plus a magma box etc. etc.
If it's just one raid you have connected all is dandy but at a certain point, something's gotta give and depending on your usage and connected hardware that bottleneck may become noticable during critical work or during a playout. And it's hard to predict and to calculate. There have been reports where video io, raid and two monitors brought it down already.
On another note: why not get a beefy small Raid box that connects via SAS? It's cheaper then a TB raid and you have guaranteed bandwith, regardless of other cards and peripherals, that goes way beyond what a TB raid would provide.


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Andrew Richards
Re: Whats wrong with thunderbolt? promise and sonnet vs current mini sas/pcie arrays
on Feb 23, 2012 at 5:55:44 pm

[Frank Gothmann] "The main problem I have at this stage is that there is little information out there as to compatibility, chaining order and how devices actually influence each other and eat bandwith. So, yeah, I'd also be a bit cautious."

Yep, physics is still physics and bandwidth is still limited. Thunderbolt is not going to be doing a lot of the things people want it to be doing until it has a wider pipe.

[Frank Gothmann] "On another note: why not get a beefy small Raid box that connects via SAS? It's cheaper then a TB raid and you have guaranteed bandwith, regardless of other cards and peripherals, that goes way beyond what a TB raid would provide."

For SAS, you need an HBA, and that means a PCIe slot. I think the thing that is getting conflated in the whole Thunderbolt discussion is the idea that Thunderbolt is somehow a replacement for PCIe. It clearly isn't, but all the hype has combined with the Mac Pro's cobwebs to lead everyone to seem to see it as Thunderbolt vs PCIe instead of Thunderbolt superseding FW800 and ExpressCard. We never had PCIe slots on the Macs that have Thunderbolt, so it doesn't make sense to me to make the comparison to PCIe.

Like I said before, if we get new Mac Pros that have Thunderbolt ports in lieu of 8x and 16x PCIe slots, that's another story. It would be a damn shame too, since the E5 Xeons will have PCIe 3.0 support. That's double the bandwidth of PCIe 2.0. A couple PCIe 3.0 16x slots would be as good as four of today's 16x slots!

Best,
Andy


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Jason Jenkins
Re: Whats wrong with thunderbolt? promise and sonnet vs current mini sas/pcie arrays
on Feb 27, 2012 at 6:14:24 pm

[Jake Zalutsky] "I have heard a number of people say the promise thunderbolt product is not up to par and I am wondering if someone could explain the possible problems I may encounter with it (actually havent heard anything about the sonnet....its not even out yet so I guess that is why)"

I've had a Promise Pegasus R6 for a couple of months now and I've run into a few issues, but nothing that has kept me from making good use of it. My Thunderbolt/display chain is: Macbook Pro > Pegasus R6 > Dell 24" (via mini-displayport to DVI adapter).

1. It took 25 hours to initialize before I could use it (not the advertised 10 hours).

2. Things need to be powered up in the correct order to keep it happy. I have everything plugged in, then power up the Pegasus R6 first. When that boots, I power on the Macbook Pro. When shutting down, I power off the Pegasus last. When I tried to eject the Pegasus and shut it down while the Macbook Pro was running, something got corrupted and I had to use DiskWarrior to fix it.

3. If my Mac goes to sleep, the Dell freezes. I use the screensaver now instead of letting the system sleep.

Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my Mormon.org profile.


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Steve Modica
Re: Whats wrong with thunderbolt? promise and sonnet vs current mini sas/pcie arrays
on Feb 27, 2012 at 9:06:40 pm

There is going to be a lot of hot plug and unplug weirdness for a while. When a PCIE bus just "goes away" the drivers are going to get errors. Most drivers will try to talk to the card to find out what's wrong (oops! System hang). If they are smart and don't try to talk to the card, then they have to tear down whatever was going on with the OS to free up the OS structures so the device can get plugged back in later. (otherwise, hotplug won't work after an unplug). It's going to take people a while.

Steve Modica
CTO, Small Tree Communications


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